Iran to Ease Work Restrictions Even as Virus Cases Climb

(Bloomberg) --

Iranians don’t have to choose between their health and their jobs, President Hassan Rouhani said, a sign that the sanctions-ravaged nation can’t afford to put the economy to sleep while it struggles to control the coronavirus.

Iran will ease some social-distancing measures from April 11 and allow “low-risk” business activity to resume, Rouhani said, as the number of new daily reported cases continued to decline.

“Ill-wishers and anti-revolutionaries say that people have to choose between their health or economic activities, but this is completely false,” Rouhani said, adding that “economic activities, production and health protocols can co-exist.”

Tehran province, the epicenter of the outbreak in Iran and the country’s economic linchpin, will be excluded from the plan that involves allowing two-thirds of government employees to return to work, Rouhani said in a coronavirus task-force meeting shown on state TV. The U.S. is resisting calls to ease sanctions on the country even as the virus adds to pressure on Iran’s economy.

A massive drop in revenues from oil as a result of a U.S. ban on purchases of crude from the Islamic Republic have forced Rouhani’s government to seek a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, tap an already-depleted sovereign wealth fund for $1 billion and carve 20% out of an austerity budget.

Travel Ban

Iran was late to announce a ban on travel and enforce measures against people driving between towns and provinces. It introduced rules after millions of people defied numerous government calls to stay at home during the annual Persian new year holiday last month.

The closure of religious shrines and the travel ban between provinces will remain in place until April 18, Rouhani said, adding that public transport will still operate limited services.

Iran reported 151 deaths from the virus on Sunday, raising its total fatalities to 3,603 from more than 58,200 positive cases.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.